There weren’t too many tears on the faces of the San Benito High players after their season came to an end against host Saratoga High in a Central Coast Section playoff opener on Nov. 1.
That’s because the Haybalers (11-5-1) exceeded expectations by making the postseason for the first time in the six-year history of the program while also having their best showing in league play, at third place. The Saratoga (8-1) match went the distance, as the teams played 60 minutes of regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, before the Haybalers lost the shootout, 3-0.
“We’re very proud of this season and we walk away feeling like we did all we could, though we definitely feel we should’ve been able to get one (score) in,” Balers coach Molly Macierz said.
Indeed, San Benito had the better run of the play and higher possession time from the fourth quarter on. They had a couple of golden chances to score to no avail, and once they entered the shootout, it became a crapshoot.
“We practice 1-on-1s but we need more practice,” Macierz said with a slight chuckle. “But however much practice you do, it doesn’t compare to the pressure when the situation comes up, so I think that got to everyone because they never had that situation before.”
San Benito received solid play from whoever was on the field, which was a strength of the team all season. Ryen Ortiz was all over the field making plays, while Laila Rueda, Kylie Sparks, Piper Pierson, Teresa Planas and McKenzie Heckman—just to name some—were also active and helping the team control the possession.
Goalie Megan Maggiora made a couple of key saves to keep the game scoreless. The Balers passed the ball well, hustled and fought for every contested ball and battled to the end. They simply couldn’t get one past the Saratoga goalie—not in regulation, overtime or the shootout.
Ortiz and Heckman placed some quality shots on goal that were either blocked or went barely wide. Macierz was particularly proud of the players for working hard and figuring things out along the way.
“Each season there’s stuff as a coach where you feel like ‘OK, now I know what we need to work on,’” Macierz said. “But also there are moments when they do the drill—the stuff we’ve been working on all week in practice—in the game and that feels really good. It makes you realize things are coming together and it’s cohesive. It’s those moments I’ll remember.”
It took six years for the Balers to make the CCS playoffs, and those around the program hope it becomes an annual deal.
“That’s what we want, is to keep building the program,” Macierz said. “That’s the plan.”
San Benito certainly looks like it has the capability of doing that, as they have a large roster filled with talent at all grade levels and the upperclassmen providing solid leadership to the younger players.
“Our bench goes deep and we have seniors knowing their role and passing what they’ve learned down to the younger ones,” Macierz said.
Macierz said the team will use the loss as a learning experience to continually improve for the future. Just as important, players have built relationships that will last long after they graduate, and they’ve excelled in the classroom as well.
Junior Ava Thatcher led all fall sports athletes with a 4.83 GPA, an unbelievable accomplishment.
“These girls are involved in so many things and field hockey is just one part of their lives,” Macierz said. “I’m just happy I get to be a part of it.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.